The European Union has approved sanctions against key members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Putin’s chief of staff Anton Vaino, as well as a number of other figures involved in Russian politics and media.
Sanctions have been approved against a total of 555 individuals and 52 entities in response to “violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” according to a press release from the European Council. This comes after Putin on Monday recognized two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine, the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, as independent.
The sanctions approved by the European Union on Wednesday will also include all 351 members of the lower house of Russia’s national legislature, who the release noted voted in favor of Putin recognizing the two territories as independent.
“Such decisions are illegal and unacceptable. They violate international law, Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, Russia’s own international commitments and further escalate the crisis,” High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borell said of Putin’s move in a statement.
A document listing more than 20 of the people and entities included in the sanctions, seen by Politico Europe, says that under Shoigu, “Russian troops have held military drills in the illegally annexed Crimea and have been positioned at the border” with Ukraine, and “he is ultimately responsible for any military action against Ukraine.”
The New York Times reported that in addition to Shoigu and Vaino, notable individuals targeted by the new sanctions include the director of the foreign ministry’s Information and Press Department, Maria Zakharova, and news network RT head Margarita Simonyan.
The sanctions package, which is several hundred pages long, according to The Times, will impose bans on the import of a number of goods and services, as well as a ban on Russia’s short- and long-term bonds, which the country uses to raise funds in European capital markets.
This comes a day after President Biden on Tuesday put into motion coordinated sanctions that were developed over months of intensive diplomacy among allies and aimed at imposing punishing consequences on Moscow.
Biden called the moves the first set of significant measures taken in response to Putin’s decision a day earlier to recognize as independent, and aid militarily, breakaway regions in southeastern Ukraine.
“This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Biden said in remarks from the East Room of the White House. “I’m going to begin to impose sanctions … and if Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further.”